Have you ever seen white people complain when governments pay reparations to marginalized groups for the oppressive actions of previous governments, particularly regarding people of colour? Have you seen them say something like “They’ve already paid them enough. It’s in the past. Let’s move on.”?
This position is racist.
See, the problem is that white North Americans tend to look at the status quo as the baseline.
They got to where they are because they worked hard. They studied hard in school, got their degree on their own merits, worked hard to find a job, and scrimped and saved for their retirement.
And while that may be true, it ignores the violence that made those efforts possible.
It ignores the near-extermination of the indigenous people of what is now Canada and the US, and the subsequent removal of survivors from land white people wanted to occupy. That land and all the resources upon it helped propel the economies of Canada and the US to make them the developed countries they are today.
It ignores the enslavement of Africans and their descendants. Their free labour allowed white colonizers to accumulate wealth, which allowed them to create corporations that helped propel the economies of Canada and the US to make them the developed countries they are today.
It ignores the use of cheap Asian labour to build the transcontinental railroads that helped propel the economies of Canada and the US to make them the developed countries they are today. It ignores the laws passed to prevent Asian immigrants from citizenship, naturalization, and land ownership for decades, giving white people a head start in creating an economic environment in which their own grandchildren had fewer barriers.
The economies of Canada and the United States are what they are because of the oppression of people of colour. Without that violence, white people wouldn’t have “tax dollars” to pay out in reparations.
So, no, we haven’t paid enough. Nowhere near enough. Not when people of colour in these countries live at higher levels of poverty than white people do. Not when people of colour in these countries are arrested, convicted, and incarcerated at higher rates than white people are. Not when people of colour face more health challenges and lower life expectancies than white people do. Not when people of colour have lower education levels than white people do.
As long as the system continues to marginalize and oppress people of colour, it‘s not “in the past”.
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